Epidemic of Suicide on its way?

Epidemic of Suicide on its way?

Ann Bailey

Much is written and discussed about the youth suicide rate – be it from bullying or from the general stress of being young in today’s society.  But little attention is given to individuals on the other end of the spectrum – the age 60+ crowd.  More than 7,000 Americans age 60 or older commit suicide each year.  “As the population continues to age, the number of suicides by older adults is expected to climb as the ‘baby boomers’ reach older adulthood,” warns researcher Debra Karch.

What else factors into such a warning?  Karch has parsed the suicide data from 17 U.S. states during the years 2007 to 2009.  She found that the characteristic of “unmarried’ was over-represented in the numbers of seniors who commit suicide.  Of those who committed suicide during the years studied, almost two-thirds of women (63 percent) and almost half of men (47 percent) were single, divorced or widowed.   Marital status reveals itself as a highly significant predictor of suicide among older Americans. (p<0.001)

As the number of individuals who never marry or are divorced continues to rise, it is not a stretch to extrapolate that the relative number of seniors who commit suicide will also rise.  Is an epidemic of suicide on its way?  The sheer number of baby boomers who are rapidly turning gray tells us that this is a distinct possibility.  A crucial preventative measure appears to be the need to re-instill into society the importance of getting married and staying married.  The biological clock is definitely ticking.

Debra Karch, “Sex Differences in Suicide Incident Characteristics and Circumstances among Older Adults:  Surveillance Data from the National Violent Death Reporting System:  17 U.S. States, 2007-2009,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 8.8 (August 23, 2011):  3470-3495. 
1Comment
  • Dorraine Thomas
    Posted at 22:22h, 03 March Reply

    Wow! I had never thought about the elderly committing suicide! I always hear about “teen suicide.” But your article makes sense…old, lonely, tired, sad. Thanks for opening my eyes about this.

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